Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The #IceBucketChallenge

Chances are, you’ve heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. At this point, how could you not?

The challenge involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water on video, posting the video to social media and then nominating others to do the same. If you refuse to take the challenge, then you’re asked to make a donation to the ALS charity of your choice.

As of this writing, the ALS Association has received over $15 million in donations—compared to $1.7 million during the same time last year—and more than 300,000 new donors! There are more than a million ice bucket videos now on Facebook.

Obviously, the campaign is a success, but at the same time let’s not make more of this than it is. We’re not seeing a fundamental change in the nature of fundraising—it’s a clever use of social media. The challenge is like sponsoring a friend—we do it because of the connection, not necessarily the cause.

Hopefully the ALS Association will make some new long-term supporters through the challenge. But that’s going to require a lot of donor cultivation on its part—and that’s the sort of work that all of us are doing. There’s also been some discussion around whether the challenge is draining money away from other causes. All campaigns and solicitations require people to make choices, and this is no different. I personally compartmentalize this sort of approach and don’t regard it as part of my overall philanthropic budget—and I think a lot of people do the same. In the end, we’re talking $15 million compared to the overall $300 billion in charitable giving annually.

The #IceBucketChallenge isn’t changing the nature of our work, but it does demonstrate what we can do if we strike the right tone while taking a reasonable risk with our outreach.

(Editor’s Note: The total is now up to $32 million and counting!)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Some Thoughts on Don Rizzo: Colleague, Friend and Fundraiser

“What makes a great fundraiser?”

If you were faced with this question you would possibly think of someone who raises a lot of money, runs groundbreaking campaigns, develops innovative ideas and has great rapport with donors and supporters.

I wouldn’t disagree with any of those but I think there are other qualities we often forget or tend to give short shrift. Modesty, for instance. For after all, as fundraisers, we are not the focal point—it is our donors and the beneficiaries that together, we serve. And since fundraising is a team effort, what of loyalty to the team and letting others shine? What about giving back and being generous in spirit and camaraderie?

I mention this because Don Rizzo, CFRE, a long-time fundraiser and member, and former chair of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy, died this week. Don was a fabulous fundraiser, running huge campaigns for the University of Louisville, University of Hartford, Butler University and Loyola University, among others. So much so that he was named AFP’s 2010 Outstanding Fundraising Professional.

But when I heard of his death this weekend, I immediately thought of those qualities, not his fundraising exploits. Don was a quiet leader, quick to give credit and always ready to highlight the work of others. For him, it was all about getting the job done by bringing together the best possible expertise and resources, regardless of who got the accolades, and creating a culture of philanthropy and collegiality.

Maybe those qualities—humility, loyalty, compassion and camaraderie—aren’t always top of the list in today’s society, but I know they make for a very fine and effective fundraiser. They’re qualities we should all seek to emulate, both in our professional and personal lives.

Thank you, Don, for your service to AFP, the organizations where you worked, and the fundraising profession. We will continue to follow in your footsteps and seek to live up to the high standards and qualities you set for yourself and your work.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

An Increase in Giving, But Fair Warning Needed

Like many of you, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Giving USA numbers for 2013, with overall giving increasing by three percent, adjusted for inflation.

While previous versions of the study showed a steady uptick in giving over the past few years—as had other surveys, including the Nonprofit Research Collaborative’s 2013 Year-End Fundraising Survey—few expected such a strong increase for the past year.

But look a bit deeper, and there are some troubling signs. As the Giving Institute (the publisher of Giving USA) noted, total giving was “given a lift by several very large gifts made by individuals, couples and estates in 2013.”

This trend mirrors what we’re seeing with the Fundraising Effectiveness Project—charities raising more money, but from fewer donors. And it explains a lot of what I’m hearing about from AFP members— who are reporting different and mixed experiences related to giving and economic rebounds.

There are two key reasons for this. One, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about giving after the Great Recession, and lower and middle-income donors probably aren’t comfortable enough yet financially to resume their traditional levels of giving. I think we’ll see those giving levels rise in the coming years.

But two, and more importantly, what we’re seeing is the growing concentration of wealth in the hands of the very wealthy. If that trend continues—and there’s no evidence so far to indicate it won’t—it could have a tremendous impact on philanthropy and fundraising.

I’d be interested in hearing your organization’s giving experiences so far in 2014 and what you think about the growing concentration of wealth.

And don’t forget, not only does AFP have a number of articles and resources related to Giving USA, but  AFP members get a 30 discount on ordering Giving USA resources as well.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Leadership Through Change

I need your help in changing AFP.

And it’s going to take you about twenty minutes.

That’s how long it will take you to help determine the direction of our association when you nominate someone (even yourself) to one of our boards—either our association board, or the board of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy.

Change in our world is constant. We’re going to evolve—as individuals, as an association and as a profession. It’s inevitable.

But it’s not enough just to accept change. Success in our world means embracing and harnessing it. And our leadership has to reflect those ideas.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. We’re naturally resistant to change. And not only that, we are often drawn to like-minded people who think the same way we do. But without actively seeking out change, we risk getting tunnel vision and simply doing what we’ve always done because it’s worked in the past.

That’s not my vision of AFP, and it’s not an effective way to function as a profession. We all have to be willing to make hard, conscious choices about accepting and embracing new perspectives and ideas.

One of those choices is in the selection of our leaders.

If you haven’t thought about joining one of our boards, I urge you to consider it. Or if there’s someone you admire and respect—someone who hasn’t taken a leadership role before—I hope you’ll nominate them.

The deadline for submitting nominations to either board is June 27—though nominations for chair-elect are due June 20.

And if you don’t feel like you’re ready for the board, consider volunteering on the chapter level. In addition, AFP International has over 50 different committees and task forces on which you can serve (you can contact Rebecca Knight at rknight@afpnet.org for more information).

We need to change—all organizations do, continuously. And you’re the key. Take a little time and help us set the course for AFP and the fundraising profession.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Salary Gender Gap

AFP’s latest Compensation and Benefits Survey is out today, and I talk with Nikki of Nikki’s Notes fame about some of the key data, including falling salaries, turnover and the persistent gender gap.
There’s a lot to talk regarding the survey, and I’ll be covering other data in future blog posts, but I want to focus on that last issue for a moment.

For many years now, there’s been a wide gap between salaries paid to men and salaries paid to women for doing the same fundraising work. For 2013, male fundraisers in the U.S. earned an average of $94,497, while women earned just $70,145. In Canada, the gap was smaller—$85,780 for men and $76,826 for women.

With the exception of a couple of years, the salary gap is usually over $20,000 in the U.S. and approximately $12,000 - $16,000 in Canada.

It’s mind-boggling that we HAVE to address it, especially in a profession where women outnumber men considerably. There’s no GOOD reason for the gap.

But we do have a responsibility to address it, and there are a couple of things we, as a profession, can do. First is the top-down approach, where we continue to highlight the issue with boards, senior staff and others involved in the hiring. I don’t think any organization goes out and purposefully hires a woman so they can pay less. But since people tend to gravitate towards individuals similar to themselves, it’s all too easy to hire a man when it’s quite likely the board and senior staff are composed mostly of men.

In addition to drawing attention to the issue at the highest levels of nonprofits, we’ve also got to ensure that women—and any other member for that matter—are positioned with the right skills, knowledge and experience to achieve those positions, if that’s what they want. AFP will be working to identify and build career tracks and education so women are prepared to apply for—and most importantly, reach!—the pinnacle of our profession.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Key to Giving

Over the past few years, the definition of philanthropy—and what constitutes philanthropic action—has grown tremendously. Look at the rise of social media, crowdsourcing and different types of social responsibility such as giving at the checkout line—all new ways to engage philanthropically.

These trends are good for philanthropy. We need new ideas to keep philanthropy strong and vibrant and force fundraisers and charities to rethink strategy and tactics.

So I’m always taken aback by quotes like this from a recent Fast Company article about the rise of socially conscious buying: “Americans have done about what they are capable of or willing to do as far as donations go.”

Of course, giving levels aren’t great right now. Numerous challenges exist, including donor retention, changing donor demographics and expectations, new communications, public policy—the list goes on. We have a lot of work to do.

And part of that work is integrating new ideas. Many people thought that with the advent of email and social media, direct mail was going to die off fast. But it hasn’t, because it’s been integrated into our operations, and we’ve continued to learn how to best engage people with it.

I don’t believe for a moment that we’ve seen a peak in direct giving that we’ll never get beyond. If anything, I wonder that with all of the different ways to engage donors now, we’re just beginning to scratch the surface as to overall public support of philanthropy.

It’s simply a question of engagement. Philanthropy will always be changing and expanding, but people will give if we engage them in the right way. There are more ways than ever to engage, so it’s going to be a process of experimentation and testing. But once we find the right mix, giving will continue to grow, integrating all of the aspects of philanthropy.

Monday, April 7, 2014


We just finished up a great conference in San Antonio, and you’ll be hearing a lot more about everything that happened at the conference in this blog, eWire and the website through the coming weeks.

One of the big events in San Antonio was the launch of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy’s BE the CAUSE campaign (formerly Every Member). Everyone who gave to the foundation at the AFP Hub, which was a fountain of activity, got their photo taken with a message about why they gave. You can see mine here.

I thought it was a great idea because it focuses our annual campaign on what matters: you.

You want to advance the issues that affect our profession. You want to advance ethical and effective fundraising because it builds trust with donors. You want to help prepare the next generation of fundraisers who will carry on our work.

The foundation is an extension of you, and your vision for the future of our profession. It’s about your passionate commitment to a cause that inspires you to be a part of this amazing profession.

In turn, the AFP Foundation supports your work as a fundraising professional. It’s about all of us working together—to shift the vision of fundraising to align with future demands, while continuing to uphold the ethical practices that are critical to our community of professionals. And providing important tools to you—such as our Ethics Assessment Inventory, research scholarships and diversity initiatives.

I support the foundation because fundraisers DO turn opportunities into reality. You have your equally important reason. And whatever it is, I urge you to support the foundation as well. It’s how we advance the profession.

It’s your gift. But it’s about all of us, working together.

BE the CAUSE is something we can all proud of, and something we can use in our own work. To learn more and give, go to the BE the CAUSE website.